Adventure with an Edge

Swashbuckling romanticism meets contemporary sensibility in the Schulich Children’s Plays presentation of The Three Musketeers

By Claire Mastrangelo

When The Three Musketeers thrusts and parries its way onto the stage of the Festival Theatre next season, it will be the fourth time that this perennially popular family show has been staged at Stratford since its debut in 1968.

Playwright Peter Raby created his adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’s rollicking adventure novel specifically for the Festival’s thrust stage, and the director of this new production, Miles Potter, displays palpable enthusiasm for this happy marriage of play and venue.

“Directing The Three Musketeers at the Festival Theatre is exciting for all the usual reasons,” he says. “And I do enjoy deploying the ‘troops’ and making use of that great theatre. Musketeers is a classic, but a different kind of classic from Shakespeare, and in very accessible language.”

Dumas’s story follows the adventures of the youth D’Artagnan as he sets out to earn his place among the King of France’s famed Musketeers. It’s a whirlwind of a tale that whisks audiences through the French countryside to the streets of Paris to French and English palaces, with numerous stops at apartments and inns along the way. As Mr. Potter explains, the difference between directing the forty-two-scene play on a thrust stage and on a more conventional proscenium stage is immense.

“If you did the play on a proscenium, you would be very tempted to use a lot of scenery,” he says. “The play contains scores of scenes; you’d need all sorts of machinery. Using the Festival stage allows us to flow from one place to another, like a Shakespeare play.” The cast will include Graham Abbey as Athos, Jonathan Goad as Porthos, Luke Humphrey as D’Artagnan and Mike Shara as Aramis.

The Three Musketeers is a classic that continues to resonate with audiences – even as our culture changes. At the time of the play’s first publication, John Hirsch (who directed the debut production) and Mr. Raby wrote that they thought it spoke to an essence of romanticism that pervaded 1960s culture. Mr. Potter, however, feels that today’s viewers require a slightly different approach to the tale of kidnapping, duels and narrow escapes.

“There will always be an element of romanticism in a story like Musketeers,” he says. “However, I think that today’s audiences, young and old, want a little more realism in their heroes and romantic stories. Today, superheroes are flawed and troubled; people don’t really want the Batman from 1960: simple and pure. I hope to try and find a little more danger and edge in this particular production.

“It’s a play about loyalty as well as betrayal; it’s about courage as well as conflict. I hope this version will have something for all ages: colour and flash for the younger ones, a little moral complexity for the adults and, of course, for everyone – swordfights!

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